2021-01-08  |  By Digital Photography

A recap of Q2 Digital Photography from our Arts Matter Team.

Digital Photography, the second of our four part Media Arts curriculum, was off to the races for our Teaching Artists.

We kicked off our photo unit in late fall with a 4 part teacher training series via Zoom. Using cell phones or Chromebooks to take and manage photos, allowed a natural community building opportunity for Teaching Artists and collaborating classrooms, by sharing a 'slice-of-life,' through a personal photo essay.

MAM's Digital Photography study focused on the topics of Scale and Space while exploring the theme of Identity. To bring this learning to life, students were asked to shoot a 3-5 image photo essay about their identity by directly photographing a subject or taking photos of objects that represent the subject.

Students were supplied with many photo planning tools and shot lists to help them prepare for their shoots, as they were asked to culminate the photo unit by creating a video slide presentation of their photo essay in Adobe Spark. Fully integrating the unit to classroom content, students were given the choice to write captions or do a voiceover for each photo, as part of their final artist statements. They were presented the below assessment tool as way to guide their shooting and storytelling skills.

Final Student Samples

Lisette, grade 8, Mr. Rambo ELA, LAPFMS

Mia, grade 8, Mr. Rambo ELA, LAPFMS

Teaching Artist Reflections

Tia's Reflections We tasked our young artists with creating photographic essays for quarter two. I provided examples of still life and photo essays documenting people and their communities. We centered our teaching on the Kitchen Table Series by Carrie Mae Weems. We discussed the utility of accessing what is immediately available in your environment as an artist. I led games where students had to guess the shot type with an explanation and its impact in communicating a feeling or thought. In my ELD class my students were exceptionally engaged! They turned on their mics and expressed their honest opinions about the art. The class felt like a community of artists. One particular student was a past participant in MAM who experienced a complete transformation in their engagement and behavior throughout the course of the year. This student has been absent for all of the quarter but showed up ready and engaged! My co-teacher and I were elated and encouraged by his enthusiasm. His photo essay centered his mother and her life experiences as they have shaped her identity.

Christina's Reflections My favorite part of Q2 has been getting a peek into my student’s lives through their identity photo essays. We learned about shot composition, and opportunities to practice these new ways of seeing generated a fun and creative space for my students to show off their skills and some co-teachers to practice arts integration. This beautiful still life, composed by 6th grader Juliet, imagines what objects could represent Medusa’s identity in a photo.

Practicing shot types and angles provided an informal opportunity for students to get comfortable speaking over zoom and practice those artistic skills at the same time. My classes appreciated the opportunity to build community and connect more deeply by sharing glimpses of their lives. 

When it came time to put their photos together in an Adobe Spark Slideshow, we celebrated with a student showcase of their artwork! Here are a couple of the stellar photo essays from Ms. Pettus’ 11th grade students at West Adams Preparatory High School:

Ilene's Reflections As a professional photographer, this is by far my favorite unit of study in the MAM curriculum! I've noticed that my teachers have a variety of preferences when it comes to platforms for student engagement. Some like Padlet, others like Jamboard and I've heard that LAUSD likes Nearpod. In response to each teacher's dynamic skill sets, content needs and limitations due to distance learning, I do my best to streamline my approach to make my time with each class efficient and purposeful. One tool I found incredibly useful during this time of virtual teaching and learning is Sutori.

Another go-to tool for me that is fool proof and easily adapted to any content area which will surely boost engagement, is Kahoot. You can see my PHOTO KAHOOT here.

Star's Reflections I was really excited to teach this Photography unit intertwined with each of my teachers' curriculum. I am always amazed by how my students find the most interesting ways to use photography to connect art with science and math. I always let them know that photography is a tool to capture reality and my students living in a pandemic have captured the beauty of their lives. I let them know it was okay if they only captured their inside world because I didn't want them to put themselves in harm's way for the assignment. Still, even in small moments of sunsets or walks with their families through their neighborhoods, the students could capture and highlight the beauty of the everyday moment. I saw my students' creativity from their imagery and how they can see beyond the lockdown of everyday life. It made me very hopeful as a teacher and artist. I let them know that their images are important for themselves and to remember this time in history.